NBA Draft - Jalen Williams on his rapid rise: ‘I trusted the work’

The Santa Clara guard spoke with Yahoo Sports NBA draft analyst Krysten Peek at the Barclays Center after being selected 12th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Video Transcript

KRYSTEN PEEK: I'm Krysten Peek, NBA draft analyst for Yahoo Sports here with the number-12 pick in the 2022 NBA draft. Jalen Williams heading to Oklahoma City. How does it feel to finally say you're an NBA player?

JALEN WILLIAMS: I mean, it's just kind of one of those moments you dream of, you know, from when you're little until now. And just hearing my name called was kind of unreal. Like, I didn't even react at first, just 'cause it-- you know, it seems like you're playing a video game.

KRYSTEN PEEK: I mean, you were one of the biggest risers in this draft class. We saw you at the NBA draft combine. You had a great showing there. And there was, you know, talks of you being a first-round lock. And then you snuck into the lottery. Are you surprised at all by the fast movement? Or is this something that you've been prepared for, and you're finally getting that recognition?

JALEN WILLIAMS: It's hard to really, like, prepare and kind of go through this whole process and really know what's going to happen. But I kind of just trusted the work that I was putting in and was kind of confident in what I kind of did during pre-draft. And then just going through this, I'm kind of happy that the uncertainty is kind of over with. But yeah, I mean, you can't really prepare for how it went.

KRYSTEN PEEK: You're now, like, the poster child of success when you go to a smaller school like Santa Clara. Is there a difference between, you know, having success there and not choosing that path to go to a Power Five conference?

JALEN WILLIAMS: I think, ultimately, what I've learned in this process is just that, you know, if you're playing well, teams will find you. And I kind of just stuck to that. And I'm super, super grateful for the school and their support, and just my coaching staff, you know, kind of believing in me and trusting in me, and along with my teammates and my family. So I just say, you know, if you can play, you can play wherever.

KRYSTEN PEEK: Two of your future teammates are actually here tonight. They got drafted. Chet Holmgren at number two and [INAUDIBLE]. Do you know them at all? Have you gotten a chance to get to know Chet during this process at all?

JALEN WILLIAMS: Yeah, so Chet's in my agency, so we're actually pretty cool. And then, you know, we competed in WCC a little bit, so it'll be cool to--

KRYSTEN PEEK: That's right.

JALEN WILLIAMS: --obviously be on the other end of him, you know, dunking and stuff. And then I just met [INAUDIBLE] walking through the thing. He just said that he was a Thunder. So that was a pretty cool experience, too. So we laughed about it.

KRYSTEN PEEK: I mean, you guys-- you're now part of an organization that's building something big. You know, they're not winning a lot of games right now. But Sam Presti knows what he's doing. He's got 30-plus draft picks in the next six or seven years. How excited are you to build something from the ground up and not necessarily go to a place that's already established?

JALEN WILLIAMS: I mean, it's kind of a dream come true, 'cause, you know, you're going into a young, energetic group that everybody is kind of learning at the same time. So I'm really, really excited to kind of learn and get better with that group of guys, for sure.

KRYSTEN PEEK: [INAUDIBLE] for OKC fans that didn't watch Santa Clara play this year, what are they getting from you?

JALEN WILLIAMS: I think just, you know, obviously, off the court, just somebody that is super personable and just kind of happy to be there, and then at the same time, just a competitor, somebody that wants to win and kind of learn as much as they can.

KRYSTEN PEEK: All right. Well, thank you so much for the time. Good luck--

JALEN WILLIAMS: Yes, thank you.

KRYSTEN PEEK: --in your season next year.

JALEN WILLIAMS: Appreciate it. Thank you.